Film review: Welcome to the Punch (15)

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Writer-director Eran Creevy, having impressed on debut with his low-key crime thriller Shifty (2008), has been rewarded with a shot at the big time in Welcome to the Punch.

Backed by exec-producer Ridley Scott, Creevy gathers a prestige cast and does for London what Michael Mann does for Los Angeles – films it as a glittering and sinister high-rise metropolis, as seen from a helicopter at night. As a calling-card for Hollywood it will do nicely.

James McAvoy and Mark Strong face off as cop and nemesis: Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) was badly wounded attempting to catch Jacob Sternwood (Strong) in a high-numbers robbery (the set-piece chase is a smart opener).

Three years later, Sternwood's son is gunned down in London, provoking the thief to come out of hiding and nail the culprit. Meanwhile, an argument over whether to arm the police dominates Westminster and may determine the outcome of an election.

The cast lend the film heavyweight presence: Andrea Riseborough plays Max's feisty, plain-speaking partner; David Morrissey is the police brass; Peter Mullan is Strong's enforcer, Johnny Harris (London to Brighton) is a scary gun-dealer; Daniel Mays and Jason Flemyng pop up, loyal graduates from Shifty. Ed Wild's crisp cinematography lights it in moody shades of gunmetal and dawn-blue.

All in all, a homegrown product to cheer, if not wholly to cherish. It lacks the integrity of his debut, the revenge-plus-conspiracy plot is fairly standard, and the gunplay gets well out of hand by the finale. McAvoy isn't good casting for the hard-bitten cop – too callow, too Hobbity – though Strong compensates with a performance of steely command.

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